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A version of this originally published in the Huffington Post

The largest coordinated national and international protest in American history snuck up on me, like a long-lost friend’s unannounced visit. I spent half my life pining over being slightly too young and too conservative to have been together with Woodstock’s 400,000. But there I was 48 years later, half a century later, on January 21, 2017, stumbling unwittingly out of the Metro red line at Judiciary Square, Washington, DC, and spilling onto a sea of humanity packed like sardines, and into an experience that dwarfed 1969 Woodstock. This was not a sea of kids scared to death of the draft, everyone in their twenties, raucous music and lots of sex. There was no tear gas and rage and throwing stuff everywhere like Chicago 1968.

There was plenty of anger, but there was this strange peace among people of every age group and race, religious and secular, the very young and the very old, families with kids, the super straight and the extraordinarily tattooed, every social group imaginable. The crowd was exuberant but sad, ecstatic but serious, eager to march but almost absurdly patient and kind. They were mostly women but an astonishing number of supportive men. I still cannot understand the calm without guides, without any instructions whatever, without any sound system or video or speeches, crushed by a turnout so large that no one could move.

Here is the thing, most of us were content to just be with each other without direction, massively crushed, enjoying each other’s signs and all our outrageous peculiarities and differences. It is as if some outside dark force had ordered us to say hello to each other for the first time in our lives, because we knew in our hearts that we may be about to lose each other. The scientists know well that loss, fear of loss, is a far more powerful motivator than opportunity for gain. We average Americans sat there like sardines, very patient, because we knew that what we were doing right then and there, that freedom of assembly, may be lost. But with such high stakes why was it all so calm, why weren’t we angry at organizers or lack of directions?

I saw something new, some new state of mind cutting across generations, with no tension with one age group or gender against the other, no race or religion against one another, no secular against religious, no mockery of any group or phenomenon, except mockery of mockery itself. I also saw something not led from the top, but led from our strange attraction to each other in a time of sorrow, of loss. I sensed it from the first second we entered the metro and discovered long lines of strangers from around the country lining up for metro cards, lines I had never in my life seen in Washington.

I sensed already on the DC Metro, rushing as a mob to the last usually empty cars that everyone filled to every single space, and then we looked at each other after the doors closed in amazement. Who are all these people? Why do they all wear the same pussy hats? Who coordinated all of our feelings? What the hell has just happened to my individual loneliness and hellish confrontation with the possible end of democracy? Where was my lonely sorrow, and why did all these people have the same look in their eyes of longing, sadness, hope? It was as if we knew no one but knew everyone and the pain they carried inside. With complete strangers, at each turn of our journey to the march, we sensed urgency, but not urgency to get to the march, urgency that we might lose the most precious gift of freedom that our ancestors had given us. We were racing not to the marching grounds but to an inheritance that we felt we could lose. As the march on Washington was lived on the ground, there was a new reality born, a reality of collective care and commitment to save what we can always be lost. No intellectual rebuke, from Socrates to Eisenhower could convince us of what we might lose as much as the reality of these days.
When massive crowds come to know each other, history often adjusts. In April 1967, about 300,000 people demonstrated against the war in New York. In 1965, most Americans had supported U.S. policies in Vietnam, but by 1967 only 35 percent did so. In October 1969, more than 2 million people participated in Vietnam Moratorium protests across the country. The following month, over 500,000 demonstrated in Washington and 150,000 in San Francisco. The American population at the time was about 190 million, and today it is about 320 million. With our millions this past week, we are not that far off from the kind of numbers that changed history and changed attitudes in the United States within a few small years. But there was persistence and momentum that made the difference in the 1960s, and our future and our willpower is still uncertain.

What impressed me most about all the demonstrations around the world that these women led is calm. One of the reasons for the unbelievable calm, composure, kindness and self-discipline of the masses, is that we are wiser today about ourselves, about violence, about anger, and about change. Oh, we are angry, and every one of the participants felt aggrieved or wounded in one way or the other by the unjust, illiberal and tragic way in which a minority in the country, together with a minority of billionaires and covert leaders, seized the country, enjoyed an absurd mascot, and began to dismantle every aspect of democratic safety, with bullying of each of us in different parts of our identity. But we are impressed by the relationship between inner peace and outer peace, the consequences of personal behavior, personal demeanor for the effectiveness of social change. Calm hovered over the atmosphere like a soft blanket in situations that were often tense with deeply uncomfortable crowding, no directions, no way out (I tried to go home for an hour and gave up), no guidance, no police protection, no program that could be heard or seen, at least in DC.

Perhaps we are reaching a new stage of history. We show up with our minds and our bodies to challenge injustice, to fight for a better way, but we are doing so with calm restraint and love, from teenagers to twenty-somethings, every single decade of human beings, gay and straight, every religion and no religion, angry for a thousand legitimate reasons, and still harming no one, aiding many and guiding many at every turn, with the calm aid of others an act of ultimate defiance against bullying itself.

Historians and conflict analysts will study this day, for both its purposeful qualities, its accidental qualities, and the surprising global outcome. They will study the action/reaction spiral of threats to democracy and the response of the masses. They will note that these marches occurred in the shadow of other mobs that have been given permission to threaten and bully isolated individuals and institutions across the country. They will note the less understood and bewildering contemporary effects of false social media, virtual bullying, virtual mob violence, and the instrumentalization of this by foreign states and agencies. But they will also note with incredulity the spontaneous courage of millions of strangers, led by women, to forge quiet, determined commitments that can be summed up on one placard: This is what democracy looks like.

They will note the overwhelming evidence from every conflict region in the world that where there is increasing equality of men and women together in struggle, something dramatically wise and calm occurs in human thinking and collective decision making, something that explains the sustainability of women’s peace relationships with other women and men across enemy lines in the worst war zones. They will note that something dramatic is happening to human evolution of consciousness and evolution of change that occurs with less violence in direct correspondence to when women and men unite as equals.

Let’s make this the norm of the American future, let’s do this often in strategic ways, let’s do it locally at every level of decision-making. We need to change, we need to unite, but we need to do so with calm and discernment. We have learned that the way we gather, the way we look at each other, the way we talk to each other, has far-reaching consequences for the kind and quality of power that we generate, for the kind and quality of society that we build. We can be angry; we can be ferociously determined to change what is unjust. But with calm, with kindness, we become an unstoppable force of social persuasion and enlightened democratic life.

Follow Marc Gopin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mgopin

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Who says commerce can never lead the way? This company had the courage to revive one of the most important moments in history. That day between British and German troops should be immortalized in the annals of peace as one of the central turning points. It should be studied by every person in other parts of the world who suffers under “eternal” enemies at each other’s throats. It is the art of the possible. The art of lone men, lone leaders who pave the way with a different idea in their head of the men they are pointing their guns at. This is leaders, a new idea, and the resulting festival of goodness.

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LEADERSHIP, IDEA, AND EVIL

by mgopin on December 27, 2015 · 0 comments

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There is no mystery to evil.
In fact making evil into a mystery,
Is a bad idea.
There are only good ideas and bad ideas.
Anything that brings purposeful, unprovoked harm,
To other sentient beings,
Is a bad idea.
Evil is a bad idea,
In the hands of a leader.
Be a leader only,
With a good idea.
If you must,
Be a follower,
For a good idea.
Be smart enough,
To be aware,
Of your own bad ideas,
And confine them to your head.
If you cannot,
Then you must leave immediately.

The temptation to mystify evil is equal to our bewilderment at humanity, how many good people are led to do the worst things imaginable. The answer is not evil in them, but the evil of bad ideas inside leaders, and the tragedy of human obedience. The one alternative that has always worked is very good ideas in the hands of a proliferation of good leaders that passes from generation to generation.

-Marc Gopin

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A Great Sifting of Religions

by mgopin on December 11, 2015 · 1 comment

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Has anyone else sensed that global crisis is becoming like a massive sifter of the major religions? It is separating out hate ideology from piety, so that as the sifting increases we are starting to see who in each religion is a charlatan hater cloaked in religious garb, and who is penetrating deeper every day into spiritual authenticity and sacred courage.

See this article. Here is an excerpt:

As Rabbi Rick Jacobs defined it in his December 2013 address at the URJ Biennial in San Diego, “audacious hospitality isn’t just a temporary act of kindness so that people don’t feel left out; it’s an ongoing invitation to be part of a community where we can become all that God wants us to be—and a way to transform ourselves in the process.”  At this moment more than ever, the world needs people like Rivka—those who are willing to uphold the principle of welcoming the stranger.

Rabbi Daniel Gropper, who advocated for Obama to let 100,000 refugees into the U.S., described this for a Westchester News 12 article as “Hear the call, be the call.”  Our call as a Jewish people is to recognize that we have been the strangers, to appreciate the human person in the strangers, and to show the world’s current strangers that we have not forgotten them.

The refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East is the biggest migration crisis since World War II—when we, the Jewish people, were the strangers. (“Refugee Crisis Response.” Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, September 16, 2015.)  Germany and Austria, which have each given refuge to thousands, are at the breaking point and are facing no choice but to close their borders. Right now, when so many need countries around the world to open their doors, they are finding hostile borders instead. This is a worldwide crisis, and we as the people of the United States, as the people of a country with the resources to make a difference, must do our part in creating a home for those who have none.

– See more at: http://www.reformjudaism.org/blog/2015/11/05/human-every-stranger#sthash.pPaxSSbt.dpuf

 

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FLAGS AND THE LIGHT

by mgopin on December 8, 2015 · 0 comments

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Light lasts forever, and we are light. If the energy and mass it took to create all of the atoms and molecules that evolved into our consciousness and spirit come from the light and return to it, then the light that the Menorah generates is eternal. To me this is the ancient holiday of Hanukkah.
 
When this picture was taken that flag reigned terror on the entire world, it was invincible, and the little Menorah was weak as could be. Brutality rises so high but disappears so quickly, while the light lasts forever. My heart goes out deeply to those who took the picture so long ago, I doubt I could have survived. But to me the picture is a triumph of light over darkness, eternity over that passing vapor of empty bullying.

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Reflections on recent events

by mgopin on October 21, 2015 · 0 comments

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Originally posted here on Oct. 19, 2015.

I am starting to see very clearly that there are those people who have the moral and emotional intelligence to understand two sides of a conflict, two enemies at once, and there are those who need to demonize someone in every situation. There are those who can empathize with their own community and with another, and there are those who at every turn look to demonize one group and whitewash their own. These are two camps of humanity, one with an evolved mind, and one with a primitive mind. Educational levels and graduate degrees having nothing to do with these two camps.

I am horrified by the mob mentality, I am saddened by many people I have helped and defended, not from my own community, who the first chance they get, join virtual lynch mobs.

The fact is that it is easy to demonize, it is the lazy primitive brain’s way out of stress. It takes work to see good and bad existing side by side, in Israelis, in Iranians, in Palestinians, in Americans, in Pakistanis, in African Americans, in Southerners, in Jews, in Muslims, in Christians.

I will never again assume that if someone is from a victim group that they have an evolved moral mind, and I will never again assume that education has anything to do with empathy, balance, and the capacity for making peace between enemies.

I see Palestinians and Israelis working hard, individually and in groups, to stop the killing, to work with each other, to save each other. and then I see primitive minds on the side, like spectators in the Coliseum, looking for blood, looking for guilt and innocence, waiting to pounce in judgment, in hate.

Now it is crunch time, when you want to help in situations of war, from Syria, to Israel and Palestine, there is only one way, dispassionate investigation, listening, suspension of quick judgment, discernment, empathy, and an abhorrence of lynch mobs, real and virtual.

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CONFLICT DEESCALATION IN JERUSALEM AND HEBRON: JUST A THOUGHT
 SUNDAY, 18 OCTOBER 2015 (as originally published on Facebook here)
We need a rapid response team, perhaps through an app, of respected observers of violent incidents in both communities, people who know and trust each other, to rapidly investigate and disseminate the facts as best they know them, in order for whatever reactions that occur be based on better knowledge of all the facts. Perhaps the app could be open, but with a respected panel who can immediately detect those on the app with consistent disinformation.
This is a suggestion for a new tactic of precision popular journalism across enemy lines. I know journalists on both sides who are committed to their profession and also to peace, and I know many on both sides who have a firm interest in saving lives always as a priority. I also know the threat of groupthink and obedience. Journalists on both sides often will defer to information from authorities as if it is gospel. This is a universal problem (Just look at the laughable Reuters feed on Russian Syrian targeting, where the authority is the Russian defense ministry).
But in Israel/Palestine we have some very dedicated journalists, both professional and popular, who could work together to correct all the deliberate manipulations and stay with sober but rapid reporting.
The key is rapidity of knowledge transfer that is responsible, to counteract rapidity that is not.
There are those who want this conflict to escalate. There are those who don’t care if it escalates and are happy to take lives and make a point. There are many who do not understand the consequences of their own bullying and violence because, at least when it comes to this conflict, they are dumb bastards. Then there are the rest of us who stand in awe watching. Progressives gather, as they should, and express solidarity and even love across sectarian lines. But I am looking at the rapid way in which opposite narratives develop on blog slots each incident and it fuels the fear and the rage, which is sometimes done unconsciously and sometimes deliberately.
We need to find better ways to immediately contain this and counteract it for the millions in the middle who are afraid, and do not know what to do or think, or in the words of Jonah, who do not know their right from their left. This paralysis due to poor facts or groupthink is costing lives. We need to become creative to save lives.

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By Marc Gopin

Tom Banchoff’s essay raises important insights and deepens the discussion about the historical relations between organized religion now and in the future with secular forms of power, governance, and authority structures. Banchoff rightly warns that ignoring these trends is a grave mistake in assessing the future, in tracking what kind of balance and shift in balance of powers may be taking place. There is no question that political Islam has had an enormous impact on contemporary history, even though it is too early to say where this will lead.

I want to focus my thoughts and response on two aspects of religion that are often not distinguished sufficiently in terms of our subjects of power and religion as well as secular and religious sources of authority in history and going forward.

There are two essentially different elements of religion as a human phenomenon that often have little to do with each other, are often confused in analysis, and are often at odds with each other. These two have very different and opposite impacts on the course of human history and the perennial struggle for power, for freedom, and the desired ethical, political, and cultural arrangement of society. One is religious power as expressed in organized religion, and the other is religious values with profound implications for the nature of human living on earth.

The essence of the struggle for emancipation from organized religion, from Socrates to the present, has been mostly about opposing the use and abuse of religious power and authority to suppress what are known today as the basic freedoms and basic human rights. The motivations of religious authorities, from ancient times to the present, to engage in these suppressions, I argue, are just as often of a deeply profane or secular origin. They belong far more in the realm of the struggle for power of some human beings over others, and struggle for the control of material resources. The great Biblical prophets exposed this over 2,500 years ago, pitting themselves against the priests of the time who used ritual and religion to control others, to build their own wealth or that of their kings and benefactors, and to engage in theft, murder, and war.

Little has changed in this regard. All societies struggle with the corrupting nature of power, and democrats who are children of the Enlightenment, as well as disciples of many religious prophetic insights, have struggled to create political systems that can effectively cope with the corruptions of power. Those systems sometimes are more strictly secular and sometimes nominally religious, but all are united by an investment in human rights, the importance of every human being’s representation in the halls of power, at least if they are citizens of the state.

This issue of citizen’s rights points to one of the weaknesses of secular constructs of human rights at the present time, and that is that they tend to heavily favor citizens, and heavily ignore the consequences of state behavior for non-citizens within and beyond borders, especially in terms of global commerce, foreign policy and military adventures. Nevertheless, it was Christian Pietists such as the visionary Immanuel Kant who predicted the essential necessity of completing the journey toward enforceable human rights for all human beings—the categorical imperative by a steady march toward global governance, something still in our future but steadily emerging.

Unlike the course of history for religious values, which have played an essential role in the evolution of democracy and human rights, in conflict resolution methods and diplomacy from every major religion, the course of history of organized religion in this regard has been utterly dismal until the post-WWII period. But even now we face some catastrophic realities of ultra-violence due to the ease with which states and corrupt clerics in good standing with their organized religions can still work together to fund—openly or secretly—extremism, hate, intolerance, religious warfare, ethnic cleansing and even genocide.

I began to write the first books on conflict analysis, conflict resolution, religion, and diplomacy in the early 1990s. Since then many have joined. Our writings were often based on our experience and experimentation in the field, just as in secular conflict analysis and conflict resolution. I can say categorically that religious values can and do play a pivotal role in the steady march of the planet toward less violence, more equality, more freedom, and more justice.

I can also say categorically that, from what we have seen, there is a sure path to aid religious people and their organized religions to greater and greater contributions to these enlightened values, these psychological and political evolutions of the human mind that were foreseen by many prophets. But it is essential in order to accomplish this states be absolutely prevented from controlling, manipulating, or using religion as a weapon of war or a means of control.

It is also essential that religious values play a role in the great ethical and political debates, but no role as organized political entities. The less power organized religion has, the more its clerics, both lowly and powerful, become voices of conscience and enlightenment. The more power they have, the worse they become, and the more their progress is retarded. This is a constant across the globe and across history. I think we are doing well in that for many decades now it appears that the marriage of many clerics and secular leaders in pursuit of common values is eminently possible. But where states interfere with this process, engage in brutal suppression using religious extremism or extremists (overtly or covertly), the more we will see a struggle between organized religion and secular institutions.

It is clear that different religions and communities are experiencing challenges and changes unique to them, due to an unnatural mix of mundane power and religion that waxes and wanes in different communities and different regions. But the rules are clear. The more religion is abused for power and suppression, the more religion will be a tool of violence—and the more most people, given the chance, will escape its clutches, often pitting whatever they construct for safety, security, and political expression against religion and religious people. But there are ample experiments globally for an alternative to this deadly confrontation.

 

Originally published here on the Berkeley Center’s forum at Georgetown University on September, 24, 2015.

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Nonviolent statecraft is a difficult proposition because policy makers act in the national interest, which will not consider nonviolence as its priority. Nations often pursue war and embrace violent regimes as allies because the benefits economically and politically of the military/industrial complex are irresistible. As a result it is hard for peace-oriented policy makers and bureaucrats to persuade their own institutions to commit to nonviolent statecraft.

Let’s take an example. An oil-producing regime upon which the U.S. economy depends eagerly courts the United States, promises to build free U.S. military bases, offers full cooperation militarily and in intelligence, and offers generous contracts to American companies in a wide range of congressional districts. Aligning with that regime’s interests appears advantageous, but doing so forces the United States to view the oil-producing regime’s adversaries as the adversaries of the United States.

Military Experiments in Conflict ResolutionThat is the bad news. The good news is that we have been making headway in at least some branches of government. There is evidence that more and more senior military personnel recognize the self-defeating nature of warfare waged for the sake of economic gain or due to ideological rigidity. These military personnel will continue to follow orders if the White House is occupied by militant leaders. They will continue to argue for all the funds they can get from a corrupted political system that showers them with unnecessary weapons systems. At the same time, in quiet ways, significant senior military and intelligence officials in the United States, Europe, and Israel have become more keenly aware of the utility of nonviolent approaches to conflict, in terms of statecraft and training. They have seen too much that is self-defeating, especially due to their bitter experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thus, it is becoming clear that one strategy to evolve the legitimacy of nonviolent statecraft is to harness the lessons learned by senior and former combatants.

It is for this reason that a variety of branches of the military made a decision in recent years to empower a select few of their officers and chaplains to seek higher degrees and certificates in conflict resolution and, under my tutelage, specifically in religion and conflict resolution. This in turn has had a direct effect on U.S. government behavior toward countries ranging from Iraq to the Central African Republic. Key personnel took proactive steps to engage multifaith religious leaders and representatives on the ground in order to prevent outbreaks of violence. This may seem like a small step, but it is not. The entire infrastructure of the military is generally designed for an adversarial role in most situations. This training put different voices at the table of decision-making, and offered commanders a different set of information upon which to make decisions. In other words, the “enemy” became more nuanced, better understood, and often recategorized as no longer an enemy after all.

In another situation, due to extensive inroads with certain agencies and branches of government, we were able to achieve, at least for a year, an unprecedented level of networking between Muslim leaders across Afghanistan, who were never allowed to meet before. They in turn were empowered to make the religious case for human rights, respect for women, and nonviolence. No one had ever thought to empower these imams before, despite the fact that they were the major victims of the Taliban assassinations. Our peacebuilding team’s inroads into the government helped a wide variety of official stakeholders in the American government, in the Afghan government, and in the global Islamic community of leaders to recognize the importance of engaging and empowering these imams. Unfortunately the program was short-lived (only two years), but it set a precedent for nonviolent forms of diplomacy and peacebuilding sanctioned in government circles.

It should not surprise us that often it is those with combat experience who have greater sympathy for peacebuilding efforts. Some ex-combatants become the most passionate peacemakers precisely because of what they have done and seen. In fact, some of the leaders in this field and pioneers of interfaith work were deeply involved in some of the most violent aspects of the Cold War and recent outrages in the Gulf. The wisdom of peacebuilding is also embedded in some of the most ancient texts of war, especially that of Sun Tzu. Thus, there is a precedent for our work as peacebuilders to join forces with combatants who have changed. Together we can marshal much stronger evidence for national and global shifts toward nonviolent statecraft.

Resistance from Elected Officials

The tougher nuts to crack are elected officials who fund their campaigns through major investors in the military-industrial-oil complex, as well as those politicians who gain votes by appealing to the lowest fears and prejudices.

Many of us who have been engaged in peacebuilding internationally for the last thirty years have spent a great deal of time and energy trying to persuade government officials of the value of nonviolent statecraft. Some of us have also sought to shape the views of students headed for positions of government authority. We have done this in the hope of making policy more attuned to nonviolent approaches to national interests.

At the same time, we have made inroads by persuading some agencies, such as the U.S. State Department, the European Union, and the United Nations, to implement trainings in nonviolent conflict resolution. The policy makers we have reached include embassy personnel, bureaucrats in governments across the world, and bureaucrats in multilateral agencies such as the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Even though a sense of the benefits of nonviolent resistance has seeped into many government conversations, only a pittance is spent on peacebuilding in comparison to what is spent on military investment. To bring about a true paradigm shift we need to devote comparable funding to peacebuilding as we devote to violence.

We had immense opportunities, for example, to invest in a nonviolent Syrian revolution. But key American allies on one side, and Russia and Iran on the other, guaranteed one of the worst and bloodiest standoffs in modern history. At the same time, Western governments were woefully unprepared to support nonviolent alternatives before they were overwhelmed. This is true in many regions of the failed Arab Spring. We must push for vastly increased funding to train U.S. personnel in nonviolence.

Investing in Peace

Well before the outbreak of war in Syria in 2011, I had been working closely for eight years with Syrian partners on building Syrian skills of interfaith diplomacy and conflict resolution. We made tremendous inroads without any support from governments financially. We ended up having several programs and major reconciliation ceremonies even in the worst period of the American assault on Iraq, which drove millions of refugees to Syria. I even engaged in a formal apology to a victim of Abu Ghraib in the Aleppo mosque, and the story of my apology was circulated in many papers. The Swiss Embassy’s staff members were critical in offering moral support and advice throughout those years in the Syrian dictatorship. They took the members of my peacebuilding team seriously as agents of change and nonviolent diplomacy, which is one of the reasons that we managed to pull off one of a very few experiments in Syria in nonviolent diplomacy.

None of our efforts have anywhere near the funding that war has. That is why war will continue to be the status quo until the forms of peacebuilding diplomacy I have outlined here become the norm. There is a long way to go. We will keep demonstrating the virtues of nonviolent statecraft and nonviolent resistance, but it is hard to dissuade Russia and Iran from arming their allies while the United States itself arms so many problematic allies to the teeth and while Israel continues using U.S. weapons on dense civilian areas of the Palestinian territories. None of this can be easily stopped so long as congressional representatives are forced to fundraise every day from the very companies and lobbies that support the massive weapons and war investments.

We have to encourage government leaders to invest in nonviolent diplomacy, but we must also maintain a healthy skepticism of government promotion of nonviolence, keeping an eye out for the possibility that a government may be appropriating the language or trappings of nonviolence for its own purposes. One has to wonder, for example, whether any state had the Ukrainian people’s best interests at heart when certain Western political figures and government bureaucrats supported the nonviolent resistance on the streets of Ukraine. This should be studied and debated. Intelligent analysts have argued that even though the previous leader of Ukraine was horribly corrupt, the people of Ukraine may not have benefited from the disruption of the unique relationship between Ukraine and Russia.

We have to be very careful to not be used by triumphalist statecraft looking for weak spots in the bellies of adversaries or competitors. I cannot imagine how Americans would react, how much worse it could make racial divisions, if it was discovered that Putin or some agency of Russia had funded something like the anti-racist demonstrations after Ferguson. Our advice on nonviolence and our engagement with states is something we should scrutinize at each and every turn.

Building on Successful Case Studies

The best approach we have seen in recent years builds on the optimistic evidence of what I call “increments of positive change.” We must demonstrate when and how countries or regions have prospered as a result of nonviolent statecraft. We must present easy-to-understand case studies that become part of the parlance of debate in the halls of power, and we must challenge policy makers and bureaucrats to argue for and fund such experiments in the halls of American power. Look, for example, at the evolution of U.S. policy toward Cuba. At first generations of individuals made pioneering gestures, then forward-thinking politicians reached out, and finally the president of the United States and a newly minted progressive pope ushered in a new era of rapprochement.

The precedents and models exist to make the case for nonviolent statecraft in the United States, but we need to make this case so self-evident that the war options become plainly absurd. The United States would do well to look to Europe, where numerous states have set a clear example of nonviolent statecraft in action. For example, whereas the United States reacted to twenty-first-century hijackings by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean by attempting to hunt the pirates down, European countries tried a different approach: jobs programs in the villages where the pirates were coming from. The jobs programs had a massive effect. Again nonviolent diplomacy, investigation, and rational strategies won the day.

One of the most rational responses to violence is to seek to understand what inspires violence in one’s adversaries. For example, the world’s most extreme terrorists had a much easier time recruiting a global army because of the destruction of Iraq and the abuse of human rights perpetrated by American military personnel under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Extremists tend to hate it when the United States brokers peace treaties, which is what Obama has been trying to do with Iran, because peace treaties turn many potential terrorist recruits away from violence.

Want to know how to dry up interest in terrorism? A major peace treaty signed by Israel, fifty Muslim states, twenty-two Arab states, and Palestine. A peace treaty between Saudi Arabia and Iran. A Marshall plan for the poor of the Middle East, especially disempowered women. That would drive the extremists crazy. But give extremists more senseless wars with lots of civilian casualties, and you feed them. Those who practice nonviolent statecraft understand this. The only thing standing in our way is the narrow drives of the corporations, lobbyists, and violence-promoting “allies” who tyrannize Congress and the White House. We can change this by offering persistent proof that nonviolent alternatives make everyone safer, domestically and internationally.

Marc Gopin is the James Laue Professor and directs the CRDC at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University
Follow this link for the original article at Tikkun.org.

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I am at 29:15-43:29. and then a lot in the Q and A. Please watch, I was good that day. I highly recommend the whole video, as there were so many inspiring voices from young Palestine and Israel, each one of them a courageous and amazing person. And Mohammed Cherkoui from The School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution was really great as well. Mmmm, watching this now this is more organized than i thought. It is funny I speak without notes, and it does not feel organized inside. interesting.

 

 

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